What is going on
Overwatch 2 is shifting to a free-to-play model with battle passes and new content every season. Players get a new hero or card every nine weeks, with the developers committing to perpetual updates.
Why it matters
While the changes in Overwatch 2 may seem minor at first glance, they fix the original game’s biggest flaw: its inability to support long-term updates. The changes are also made possible through substantial under-the-hood upgrades, which should mean fans will never have to deal with content drought again.
Registrations for the second Overwatch 2 beta are now open for PC and console players, and the game is slated for early access on October 4.
Overwatch 2 was announced with a bang (and) at BlizzCon in 2019, but that announcement was followed by two years of virtual silence. Overwatch players got their hopes up for a new game, but waited months with no news about how the game was progressing. The original game stopped releasing new heroes and competitive maps, which made Overwatch 2 feel more and more like a false promise – something that would become. whether that was due to a global pandemic, a or †
But now we’re finally getting a steady stream of information about Overwatch 2 and how it compares to its predecessor. At a reveal event on June 16, we got the most detailed look at the future of Overwatch yet, and fans should be hopeful about the shooter’s return to glory. The developers talked about the game’s transition to a live-service model and outlined how they can continue to deliver new content to the game in the coming years as a result.
Do I wish those changes had happened sooner and without a perennial drought? Yes absolutely. But the changes also seem to point exactly in the right direction for the game – solutions to the problems that plagued Overwatch in its later years.
Here’s why fans should finally be hopeful about Overwatch 2, including plans for the first two PvP seasons, the end of loot boxes, and the introduction of a new tank hero I’ll be one-trick in the near future: Junker Queen.
Overwatch 2 release date
Overwatch 2 is scheduled to release† It will be available on PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Players who purchase the game before June 23 at 11:00 a.m. PT will also receive the Founders Pack, which includes skins for Sombra and Doomfist, as well as an exclusive player icon and an unannounced gift.
Can’t wait that long? Overwatch 2 gets aon Tuesday, June 28 at 11 a.m. PT. The beta will run until July 18 at 11:59 PM PT. Players can play as Junker Queen and play on the new map, Rio, home of the supporting hero Lucio. You can sign up on the Overwatch 2 beta site. If you really want guaranteed access to the beta and don’t mind shelling out some cash, you can buy the Watchpoint Pack for $40 and unlock exclusive skins for Cassidy and Soldier 76, as well as the premium battle pass for Season 1, a other exclusive player icon and some in-game currency.
Overwatch 2 content roadmap
Overwatch 2 developers announced a slew of changes to the game during Thursday’s event. Outside of the switch to 5v5, which is mainly, no individual change feels like a titanic shift. However, the sum of the changes should make for a gaming experience that combines familiar free-to-play textures with Overwatch’s uniquely vibrant gameplay.
Here’s what we know so far:
- PvP gets new seasons every nine weeks, with a new hero or card at the start of each season. The developers said the goal is to give each season its own distinct feel, including major balance patches. They aim for 3-4 new heroes per year.
- No more loot boxes: each season has its own battle pass, which includes various cosmetics, including new skins for characters.
- The ranked system changes. The skill rating system, or SR, is being replaced by a new system designed to give players a better sense of progression, including multiple levels within each rank.
- Players will get new tools to help them improve, including a new post-match report designed to tell you more about how you’re performing.
- The game adds mythical skins — a level above legendary skins that allow players to customize each skin. Mythical skins also have unique in-game cosmetic effects.
The new details on season plans are arguably the biggest news from Thursday’s event. In the live game, seasons start and end quite randomly, with nothing to distinguish one from the other. By getting a new hero or card (or both) every nine weeks, along with major balance changes, each season of Overwatch finally gets its own identity and, most importantly, gives players a reason to keep playing season after season.
Ahead of the reveal event, I asked Overwatch 2 game director Aaron Keller what will help the game differentiate itself from other free-to-play titles following similar seasonal releases. His answer: Overwatch is special. “I think what made the original game stand out — I think magic is still a part of Overwatch 2,” he said. Keller also believes that the game will continue to attract fans with its fast-paced gameplay, unique heroes, and a long line of exciting releases once the game launches.
As someone who has been playing the game for five years now, I can’t help but agree.
Overwatch VP and Commercial Lead Jon Spector added that the biggest opportunity for Overwatch has been that players want more: “They want more heroes and they want more maps and they want to try new game modes and they want to see the story unfold and see progress.” The free-to-play model allows the team to continuously add new content to the game in a way that the original game has not been able to sustain over the years. A one-time purchase doesn’t do that anymore, which is why games like Destiny 2, Apex Legends, Valorant, and many others have embraced the free-to-play, pay-for-cosmetics structure.
Getting rid of loot boxes is also a welcome change and helps separate Overwatch from the more maligned aspects of the recentlaunch. But we’ll still have to wait for details on the overall business model for Overwatch 2.
Overwatch 2 New Hero: Junker Queen
Nearly five years after she first appeared on posters on the Junkertown escort map, the Queen of Junkertown will be a playable character in Overwatch 2. The latest tank hero is ready to go into battle and do some damage. Her abilities allow her to rush ahead, injure enemies, and even drag them toward her. Everything we’ve seen so far cries out for an aggressive, in-your-face style of play.
Blizzard also debuted the game’s first movie since the 2019 Overwatch 2 announcement trailer. The new movie focused on the Junker Queen and her rise to power.
We’ve also seen hints about another hero in the making, likely a supporting hero. The release date trailer showed a brief flash of a blue fox ghost leading a team to the spectral gates.
Overwatch 2 desperately needs more support. When Junker Queen arrives in the next beta, tank players will have 10 heroes to choose from, both damage players will choose from a roster of 17 heroes, and two supports will split themselves among just seven heroes – roughly half the number of hero options per player as the other roles.
I asked Geoff Goodman, main hero designer for Overwatch 2, about that imbalance. He said the team was aware of the issue, that Overwatch has leaned toward tanks and support in new hero releases over time, but the team is now discussing the possibility of speeding up that process. That could potentially mean back-to-back support hero releases. “We want to add more support,” he said, “and there will be a few after release.”
Overwatch 2 PvE
The announcement video didn’t say much about the PvE side of Overwatch 2, but the developers did say that the PvE events will begin in 2023 as part of the live service. That’s as much as we know now, but the developers said they would reveal more information before launch.